February 8, 2012 | LXXI, No. 45

BPA schedules public meeting on line project

The start of a Bonneville Power Administration project to replace power lines from the Third Powerhouse to the switchyards above the town of Coulee Dam has hit a delay.

BPA had announced that it would begin the project the second week of February, but only recently requested the town of Coulee Dam schedule a public meeting so the agency and its contractor could explain and answer questions about the project and work schedule.

That meeting has been set for 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at the city hall community room.

BPA’s Senior Project Manager Mark Korsness and contractor representative J. Mace Peveler, vice president of Wilson Construction of Canby, Ore., along with others, appeared before the town council Jan. 25, to announce a starting date and assure city officials that they would respond to town concerns.

But they didn’t anticipate the number of problems that still seemed unresolved.

The town insisted that there be written agreements concerning the use of town land, the possible interruption of rentals at the city hall community room, the dumping of fill on town property above city hall, and a raft of other issues.

At one point Mayor Quincy Snow stated, “$20,000 is a pretty small allowance for someone coming in and tearing up our property.”

Korsness later stated, “We don’t have to ask permission.”

Now BPA has asked for a meeting with the council’s two-member committee that deals with property issues -- Karl Hjorten and Andy Trader. A tentative meeting has been set for town hall at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9.

That would make Feb. 22 the earliest that the town council could take action on any agreement.

Town Clerk Carol Visker said the project contractor has scheduled Feb. 26, as the starting date.

One concern: what will concrete trucks and semi’s carrying girders for towers do to town streets, particularly the street in front of and alongside city hall? The work is scheduled for about the time of spring thaw and the support surface under the paved streets might not support heavy loads.

The BPA plans to use the access road behind city hall to reach the work area, where towers will be constructed that will carry the large number of lines from the Third Powerhouse across the river and up the hill to the switchyards.

Access to the road behind city hall would wipe out most parking for the town’s police department and might make it more difficult to respond to emergencies. BPA officials said there would be plenty of advance notice on heavy loads coming through.

One town official said they may have to put load limits on the roadways around city hall.

An alternative route, on old roads winding down the sandy hill from above, is not stable, BPA says, and the turns are too sharp to accommodate the long material loads.

The project will take about a year and cost an estimated $10 million.

The public is invited for the Thursday, Feb. 16, meeting at city hall.

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